US President Donald Trump’s “the deal of the century” wants Palestinian refugees to be naturalized and settled in several countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, Israeli daily Haaretz reports.
As the world marked the International Quds Day on Friday, political leaders warned of mysterious aspects of the much-touted US plan and its ramifications for the future of Palestinians.
Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said one definite prospect is that the plan seeks to do away with the issue of returning 6 million refugees to their homeland.
“To realize this goal, America is about to arrange an economic deal and get its money from the miserable Persian Gulf countries,” he said in Tehran.
Haaretz said Washington is thought to be pressing Lebanon to grant citizenship to Palestinian refugees living in the country.
“In the process, this is seen as defusing the issue of a right of return of refugees to Israel, which has been a major obstacle to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the paper said.
According to UNRWA, the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, about 450,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon.
Other reports have put the figure lower, prompting Lebanese groups to say that the census had been conducted under US pressure designed to underreport the real numbers because that way Lebanon could absorb a modest-sized population.
The Lebanese constitution, however, provides that the country’s territory is indivisible and that refugees living there are not to receive citizenship.
The official reason for this is that the absorption of Palestinian refugees would impair their claim to a right of return.
However, the US has sugarcoated the plan with a lifeline to extract Lebanon from its economic crisis, where the country’s debt is estimated at more than $85 billion (about 155 percent of GDP), Haaretz said.
According to the Israeli paper, giving Palestinians citizenship is likely to prompt the roughly 1 million Syrian refugees in the country to demand similar status.
However, Lebanon isn’t the only country concerned about Washington dictating a solution to the refugee problem.
Jordan is horrified over the prospect that the United States will demand it absorb hundreds of thousands or even a million Palestinian refugees in the country, Haaretz added.
The paper cited investigative journalist Vicky Ward recounting in her new book “Kushner Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption” that the Trump administration’s plan sees Jordan providing territory to the Palestinians and receiving Saudi territory in return.
The Saudis, for their part, would get the islands of Sanafir and Tiran from Egypt, it said.
“Land swaps appear to be the magic formula that the Trump administration has adopted, and not just for Jordan,” Haaretz said.
According to Ward, it has been suggested that Egypt give up territory along the Sinai coast between Gaza and el-Arish, to which some of the Gaza population would be transferred. In return, Israel would give Egypt territory of equivalent size in the western Negev.
Haaretz, meanwhile, revealed lucrative projects to be funded by European countries, the US and wealthy Arab states, including an underwater tunnel which Israel would allow to be dug between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Egypt, the paper said, has been promised a whopping $65 billion to help boost its economy which is currently in shambles.
The plan also says Palestinian refugees in Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries would receive citizenship in exchange for generous assistance to the host countries.
The Israeli paper, however, cast doubt on the viability of the “plan of generous financial compensation and empty tracts of land for new housing”.
“The problem is that the Palestinian refugees are the supreme symbols of Palestinian nationhood,” it said.
“An American deal that blatantly relies on buying up that symbol for cash, even lots of it, can’t be acceptable to the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza,” it added.
The Trump administration is set to unveil the economic portion of the so-called “deal of the century” during a conference in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25-26.
All Palestinian factions have boycotted the event, accusing Washington of offering financial rewards for accepting the Israeli occupation.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have said they will send delegations to the Manama forum and Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has said he intends to attend.